MINA WESTBY ON BAD RELIGION
MINA WESTBY SUGGESTS ONE OF THE ALBUMS OF THE YEAR IS BY BAD RELIGION
Who would have thought that when punk band Bad Religion first became known in 1980, thirty-three years later they would still have most of their original band members, and sixteen full-length albums? Much has happened in three decades, but it was the reunion between Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz in 2002 that re-signed them with Epitaph; their first record label and returned Bad Religion to their melodic 80’s and 90’s punk rock sound.
A few months ago, Bad Religion released their sixteenth album; True North. The album contains a vast range of punk melodic songs and eloquent lyrics that truly celebrate the history of Bad Religion. Through the song “The Past is Dead” Greg Graffin buries his differences with Gurewitz, but also looks into a better future and sings; ‘let’s focus on tomorrow instead.’
For loyal fans the album is a reminder of the late 80’s and early 90’s through tracks such as, “Fuck You,” and “Hello Cruel World,” which are mementos of 1988’s Suffer and 1990’s Against the Grain among other albums. The return to shorter songs, faster beats and Gurewitz’s melodic guitar solos, Bad Religion seem to have forgotten their previous album The Dissent of Man, which explored a more mainstream pop-punk side of the band.
One disappointment is “Dharma and the Bomb,” sung by Gurewitz. This might be blamed on the unfamiliarity of his voice, but mostly it is the lack of creativity in lyrics. Although dominated by the vocalist’s known guitar solos, Gurewitz’s voice lacks the passion and strength of Graffin whose voice is the trademark of Bad Religion. The lyrics contain mostly a tiring repetition of “Dharma and the Bomb” that sours the good after taste of academically and well-articulated lyrics usually sung by Graffin, thus feeling like an album-filler.
It is, however good to hear that they have yet to give up the fight towards social and political justice. In “Robin Hood in Reverse” the social commentary and questioning of the nature of God is portrayed in ‘Here’s the church; there’s the steeple/ Open the door, corporations are people,’ and continued in a catchy repetition of ‘Let’s say we try to get this right/ Said the plutocrat to Jesus Christ.’ As always, Gurewitz and Graffin’s combination of commentary lyrics and strong voice manage to create yet another punk rock masterpiece. Another song that is an absolute must-hear is “Dept. Of False Hope” where they praise the will for survival amongst the working class, while criticising government action. The fast drum beats by Brooks Wackerman and Graffin’s fast sung words effectively create a charismatic sound; which truly shows the colors of the band.
If the rumours are true, after what Graffin said during a tour in 2012, that the band will ‘join the navy, do honest work,’ I believe many will see True North in the short list of their Bad Religion discography. Their ability to maintain a sound that has been loved, and will be loved for many more decades, has given Greg Graffin and Bad Religion a particular punk rock image that many, me included, will dearly miss. True North will therefore always be seen as a celebration of their achievements, and perhaps a perfect ending to a long and successful career.